There may be some people out there who are totally unaware that beer may use and contain animal by-products. Unfortunately for vegans who are into drinking beer, beer breweries don't necessarily make it known whether animal by-products are being used in the brewing process or not. So for the strict vegan, precautions would have to be made to ensure that a particular beer is vegan-friendly.
For those of you who wonder what animal by-products beer may contain, a little research will reveal that there's actually a number of them. These include gelatin, isinglass, casein or potassium caseinate, diatomaceous earth, charcoal, insects, pepsin, glyceryl monostearate, albium, white sugar and lactose.
Substances like gelatin and isinglass are used as clarifiers, giving beer its clear, refreshing look. Isinglass is produced from fish swim bladders which have been dried. Charcoal and diatomaceous earth are used in the filtering process.
A portion of charcoal is usually synthesized from the bones of animals, and diatomaceous earth comes from either sea shells or fossils. Dyes used to give beer certain colors are made from insects. And substances like pepsin and glyceryl monostearate are used to control the foam that forms on the surface of beers.
Pepsin is a compound that sometimes comes from pork. White sugar and lactose are used to add flavor or a touch of sweetness. White sugar is produced with the use of bone charcoal.
But despite the use of all these ingredients, not all beers have them and some are actually quite vegan friendly. There's no significant difference in terms of quality and taste. In fact, I might go so far as to say that some vegan beers may even taste better.
The thing is we have only just begun to become more aware of what vegan beers are all about as we also become more conscious of the vegan lifestyle. Most old school hardcore beer drinkers think that there's a certain something missing in vegan beers, the same way that a pizza lover might regard a vegetarian pizza. But the reality is this concept is more psychological in nature.
Vegan beer is just as good as any beer available out there. And as a bonus, if you go for vegan beers, you're partaking in an animal-friendly practice. You don't have to be vegan to enjoy vegan beer.
After all, it's not like you're missing the taste of meat like you would when you eat vegetarian pizzas or burgers. We're talking about beers here. A vegan beer will still have that same malt-based flavor and will still get you drunk the same way, so the same rules actually apply: drink moderately and don't think for a second that drinking more vegan beer is good for your health.
Vegan Beers to Try
If you really want to make sure that your beer is vegan, there are a few simple ways to be absolutely certain: do some research, contact the brewery or make your own beer. However, if you feel like these precautions are too much of a bother, then you could always go for some of these recommended brands.
Brewed by Belgium's Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V., this smooth beer contains 10.5% alcohol, so it packs quite a punch.
A Tripel style beer whose name literally means "The End of the World." But it has nothing to do with Armageddon and is actually a celebration of the discovery the new world, North America. This is a great-tasting beer which contains 9% alcohol.
This beer is made by monks in the Abbey of Notre Dame de Saint Remy as a means of providing financial aid to the monastery. It has a taste that a dark chocolate lover or black coffee drinker would appreciate.
As the name implies, this beer has a certain sour taste to it because of yeast. But that doesn't change the fact that it's one great-tasting beer that is definitely worth a try.
Personally, I believe vegan beer is good for all beer drinkers. It means freedom and peace of mind for all vegans and a stand against animal cruelty for non-vegans, so it's basically a win-win situation. And did I mention it tastes great, too?